The U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) awarded the Near East Foundation (NEF) a one-year project grant to continue to scale up its work in Lebanon and another two-year project grant to continue its work in Jordan with refugees and host community members.
Access to basic services like housing, food, healthcare, and jobs are a significant challenge for both refugees and vulnerable Jordanian and Lebanese families who have to compete over these basic commodities. While humanitarian aid focuses on immediate needs, NEF is pioneering innovative and cost-effective long-term solutions to address these issues—providing families with conditional cash assistance to help place children in education programs, and implementing initiatives to help strengthen families’ economic resilience.
Take Ebtisal, who fled the violence in Syria and came to Jordan in 2012. With a sick husband who was unable to work, Ebtisal found herself immediately searching for work in Jordan. Unable to find a job, she soon was introduced to NEF’s program helping refugees. Through the project she was given cash assistance to help her start her own catering business—where she makes Syrian kebah, a pastry filled with ground lamb, seasoning, and pine nuts, to sell to her clients.
Because of the success Ebtisal’s business was seeing, NEF connected her with the local bazar, which provided an opportunity for her to market her growing business and expand her client base. Ebtisal said that her clients, who are mostly Jordanian, say that her Kebah is delicious, which makes her feel proud of herself. Ebtisal is saving a portion of her profits so that she can soon buy a refrigerator and a larger oven so that she can expand her business and make more of a profit.
Another example comes from Muna, a Jordanian woman who is the primary breadwinner in her house. Before joining NEF’s project, Muna was struggling to make ends meet. She said “the love for my family inspired me to apply to be a part of the [NEF’s] program so I could try to start my own business.”
With the cash assistance she received, Muna opened a children’s clothing business. The small grant had a huge impact on Muna's quality of life. When asked about how her business changed her life, Muna said, “After I received the grant, I felt like I am strong enough to do anything…if someone plans for something, they can achieve it. It is different when you don’t have enough capital to start something compared to when you do. It’s very empowering.”
Thank you for your continued support of NEF's work to make stories like Muna's and Ebtisal's possible!
Prior to joining NEF UK's project, Anna*—a survivor of gender-based violence—worked as a talented baker at a local establishment for many years. Each day, she did her best to earn money for her boss, ensuring only the best, handmade products made it onto the bakery’s shelves. Though she enjoyed her work, the low salary and long hours she worked at the bakery made her question whether she would do better to start her own business. Anna toyed with the idea for more than three years, but without start-up capital the likelihood that she could try and succeed at launching her own business seemed dim.
Anna was referred to the AGERS project in June 2015, and was selected to participate in enterprise-track trainings one month later. Over the course of the two-week class, she gradually came to realize that she could achieve her dream of opening a bistro with the support of Near East Foundation UK (NEF UK) and Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI). Through the project, Anna learned that her business model was high risk, and to be successful she would need to anticipate common challenges faced by restaurants and plan ahead to avoid them or minimize their impact. The project team helped Anna to register her business, conduct risk assessments, negotiate a rental space, and understand tax law. She used the small grant she was awarded through the project to stock her restaurant with tools and ingredients.
To limit costs, Anna recruited her son Vardan* to contribute to the management of the bistro. Vardan had always struggled with health issues, but continued to work odd labor-intensive jobs to care for the family out of necessity. For Vardan, the bistro presented a welcome alternative to his then-physically-demanding line of work. Working together, Anna could focus on production while Vardan focused on advertising, sourcing fresh produce, and managing delivery logistics.
Two months after receiving her grant, Anna earned enough of a profit to cover the restaurant’s fixed and variable costs. With business on the rise, her self-confidence continues to increase by leaps and bounds.
“My business is growing slowly” Anna says, “but it is my own business. I alone am responsible for both profits and losses. I am happy to have my son’s support. Thanks to the project, I gained the know-how, equipment, and materials to overcome my fear of failure and become an entrepreneur.”
Through the project, 131 women have developed business plans and 83 women have developed career and learning plans after attending project trainings.
* Beneficiary’s name has been changed to protect their identity.
The Advancing Gender Equality and the Rights of the Survivors of Gender-Based Violence in Armenia (AGERS) project, funded by the European Union and implemented by the Near East Foundation UK (NEF UK) and Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), brings positive change to the families of gender-based violence survivors.
Sticky sweet fingers and laughter fill the kitchens of Muna and Hanadi, two neighbors and Syrian refugees who live in Zarqa, Jordan.
Muna and Hanadi first met when Hanadi moved into the same building as Muna and her family. The two women became more than just good friends—through an NEF networking event Muna and Hanadi soon became business partners.
Both women were housewives before they were forced to leave their hometown of Aleppo in Syria. Hanadi, a mother of three sons and a daughter, fled the violence in 2012 after her house was bombed in a series of airstrikes. Muna, a mother of two sons, fled Syria with her family when the violence destroyed her village.
Like many refugees who were forced to leave Syria, Muna, Hanadi, and their families were financially unstable after resettling in Jordan. They didn’t know anyone who could lend them a helping hand and their husbands, who had served as the main breadwinners, were unable to work as a result of strict labor laws in Jordan.
Many refugee and poor Jordanian families find themselves without good options, and they are forced to resort to harmful coping strategies just to get by. This may include child labor, begging, early marriage, engaging in exploitative work, or taking on extensive debt.
NEF's work in Jordan seeks to offer refugees and vulnerable Jordanians opportunities through business trianings, financial literacy, and start-up grants—options that support participants to attain self-sufficiency and reject strategies that may harm them in the long-run.
Impressed with Hanadi's cooking skills, Muna asked Hanadi to go into business with her after attending an NEF-business training session together.
Through trainings in business planning and financial literacy and a project grant, Muna and Hanadi started a home-based catering business featuring Syrian pastries.Their kuba, a fried croquette, is a particular favorite among their client-base—which grew after Muna sent her son to school with a tray of kuba. His teacher liked it so much she asked Muna to make it for her. From then on, the reputation of their great service and delicious dishes began to spread by word of mouth.
NEF provided Muna and Hanadi with the tools and skills they needed to generate a stable income to provide for their families. Through their business, they make a profit of about 100 JOD per month ($140), which allows them to purchase necessary household items. They plan to expand their business in the future by buying a refrigerator to help produce more food and provide ready-made meals for clients on-the-go.
“Participating in the project and starting our own business made us feel part of the community because we got to connect with the people here.”
Muna continued, “I feel more confident than ever because our clients trust us.”
Thank you for your continued to support to make stories like Muna's and Hanadi's possible!